Namibia: Fishcor Workers Demand Board Removal

24 February 2020

Workers at the embattled National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) are demanding the immediate removal of the current board to allow for the appointment of persons with similar powers and functions as curators until such time that the due process of the recruitment of regular directors has been completed as required by the Public Enterprises Governance Act.

This is one of the many demands by workers through their legal representative Norman Tjombe addressed to acting fisheries minister Albert Kawana and his public enterprises counterpart Leon Jooste.

"As a result of the revelations of corruption in the media and the subsequent arrest of a number of persons, including the chairperson of the board of directors of Fishcor and its chief executive officer on serious allegations of corruption, our clients instruct that it is prudent that the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources and the Minister of Public Enterprises urgently and immediately take action against the relevant persons, particularly the directors serving on the board of Fishcor and its subsidiaries," Tjombe wrote on behalf of the workers.

Suspended Fishcor CEO Mike Nghipunya was arrested this week and appeared in court on charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering in connection with the unfolding Fishrot scandal.

Former board chair James Hatuikulipi is also in custody on a number of charges related to the Fishrot saga.

Dr Bennet Kangumu now heads the Fishcor board, while other members include regional governors Usko Nghaamwa (Ohangwena) and Sirkka Ausiku (Kavango West), fisheries ministry executive director Dr Moses Maurihungirire. Fisheries ministry employee Ndaendomwenyo Sheya is also a board member.

Workers feel that with the revelations in the media of fraud and corruption on a grand scale, it is obvious that the financial position of Fishcor and its subsidiaries was misrepresented to the fisheries minister and to the National Assembly, which in terms of section 10 of the National Fishing Corporation of Namibia Act, Act 28 of 1991, must be submitted to the Minister and the National Assembly.

They argue the misrepresentation must have been fraudulent, and if the directors could not detect the misrepresentation in the regular financial statements and management accounts, it puts into question the directors' ability to serve on the board.

Jooste said since the letter was addressed to both himself and Kawana, he would first want to discuss the matter with him to agree on exactly how to address the issue. "I have requested a meeting with him and I will be in a position to respond as soon as we have concluded the consultations," Jooste said.

Kawana said he is yet to study the letter before he can comment on the issue. Tjombe wrote that the financial position of Fishcor was of such precarious situation that there was a risk that the employees would not have been paid in January this year, despite the reported earnings increasing by 21% from N$393,657,919.00 in 2017 to N$477,696,841.00 in 2018, as reported in the Fishcor Group's financial statements for the year ending 31 September 2018.

"No doubt, there have been serious lapses of the duties and functions of the directors and of management of Fishcor and its subsidiaries," he noted.

As a result of that, Tjombe said the workers demand immediate lodging of criminal complaints with the Namibian Police with the view of investigating whether or not the directors may be criminally prosecuted for possible failures of their statutory duties as directors.

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